Fri. Dec 13th, 2019

A pro-democracy protester holds a thank you sign during a Thanksgiving Day rally at Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong, on 28 November 2019. | Photo from: Chris McGrath- Getty Images

Trump signs Hong Kong Bill into law, Rights Groups aim to unseat Bolsonaro, Tensions rise over Kashmir

North America and Canada

  • US President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Rights and Democracy Act into law last Wednesday (Nov 27). The Act would require the US government to impose sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong. China’s Foreign Ministry issued a furious statement that it “interfered with Hong Kong affairs, seriously violated international law, and the basic norms of international relations”. They have since summoned the US ambassador to protest the move.
  • Democratic candidates went on the offensive last Monday (Nov 25) on abortion laws, with many declaring support for easier access to abortion medication, coverage of abortion procedures in Medicaid, and the codification of Roe v. Wade in federal law. Roe v. Wade was a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1973 that declared that women had a right to abortion without excessive government restriction, and took place under the Burger Court, which was marked by progressive decisions that have been called a rights revolution.
  • Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler asked US President Donald Trump last Friday (Nov 29) if he intends to mount a defence during the committee’s consideration of impeachment articles, setting the deadline of this Friday (Dec 7) for Trump to make his decision. He also wrote that the committee should consider if Trump should be impeached for engaging in acts of obstruction of justice.
  • Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled last Monday (Nov 25) that former White House counsel Donald McGahn II must testify before House impeachment investigators about President Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry.
  • The US Supreme Court blocked an appeal court ruling last Monday (Nov 25) that required President Trump’s accounting firm to turn over financial records to a House committee.
  • US President Donald Trump has restarted negotiations with the Taliban and called for a ceasefire, a concession the US has consistently failed to extract from the Taliban. The Taliban has stuck by their position that there can be no ceasefire without a deal for the political future of Afghanistan, while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has refused to talk until a ceasefire is agreed upon.

Latin America

  • Supporters of former Bolivian President Evo Morales lifted some roadblocks last Monday (Nov 25), after a deal between protest leaders and the interim government was announced.
  • Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera has asked lawmakers to allow troops back on the streets to defend key public infrastructure, despite fresh reports of “grave” abuses by security forces over five weeks of riots. On top of that, the rest of the country’s football season has also been called off due to security concerns.
  • Brazilian human rights groups Centro de Asesoría en Desarrollo Humano and the Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns Commission for Human Rights delivered an “informative note” to Fatou Bensouda, a prosecutor at the International Tribunal at the Hague last Wednesday (Nov 27), requesting preliminary investigations against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. The groups are seeking to indict him via the International Criminal Court for encouraging genocide against Brazil’s indigenous people.
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has accused actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio of providing money to set the Amazon on fire. Bolsonaro has previously accused environmental activists and volunteers of setting fire to the Amazon in an attempt to obtain more funding. DiCaprio has denied the accusations, though he reiterated his support for the Brazilian people for protecting their heritage.
  • Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse has been sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment over the execution of 15 political opponents in 1982. He has two weeks to appeal the conviction. President Bouterse has previously denied the allegations and claimed that the victims were shot while trying to escape a colonial-era fortress.
  • The governing party candidate, Daniel Martinez of the Broad Front coalition, has conceded the Uruguay presidential election to his conservative rival, Luis Lacalle Pou of the National Party.

Asia-Pacific

  • After five months of protests, local elections in Hong Kong gave pro-democracy candidates 87 per cent of the elected seats in the Legislative Council. Chinese state media newspaper China Daily declared that the election had been skewed, due to the social unrest that had preceded the election, which they said had intimidated the population into voting for the pro-democracy camp.
  • Legislation in China came into effect last Sunday (Dec 1), requiring people in China to have their faces scanned when registering for new mobile phone services. The Chinese government has increasingly sought to identify people on the web, and enforce rules that require people to use the internet under their “real-name” identities.
  • Following the end of the standoff between police and students at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus, police reported that they found nearly 4,000 petrol bombs on campus. 
  • India’s consul general in New York, Sandeep Chakravorty, has called for the adoption of an “Israeli model” in Indian-administered Kashmir. Israel has been resettling its population in Palestinian territories since the 1967 six-day war, a move deemed illegal by most of the international community, including India. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called the statement reflective of “the fascist mindset of the Indian government”. The Indian government has not commented on Chakavorty’s or Khan’s statement.
  • The Indian Supreme Court ruled last Tuesday (Nov 26) that a balance has to be established between freedom of speech and national security, with regards to the rights of citizens living in Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir is one of the few Muslim-majority regions in the country, and until October this year, it was granted special status. 
  • The Indian Supreme Court ruled last Monday (Nov 25) that federal and state governments had a duty to provide clean water and air to its citizens. The governments of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, and Uttar Pradesh were highlighted to be responsible for compensating its citizens.
  • Tech companies confirmed that multiple Indian government departments and agencies have proposed a plan to compel digital companies to store data of Indian users locally, following the Pegasus breach several months ago.
  • Chinese social network TikTok has apologised and reinstated the account of its user Miss Feroza Aziz. Aziz had previously criticized China for their treatment of the Uighur Muslim population before her account was suspended. TikTok has since explained that her account was taken down over a video that included Osama Bin Laden, an explanation that Aziz has rejected.
  • Facebook has added a correction notice to a post that Singapore’s government said contained false information, in accordance with the city-state’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act. Facebook has expressed that it hopes the law will not impact free expression. The law allows the government to order online platforms to remove and correct what it deems to be false statements that are against the public interest.
  • Former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen has been sentenced to five years in prison for money laundering. The court held that Yameen had taken money that he knew was embezzled from the state. The money was from a private company’s lease of land for tourism development. Yameen has denied the accusations and is expected to appeal the conviction.
  • Japan has condemned North Korea for “repeated launches of ballistic missiles” after two projectiles were fired last Thursday (Nov 28), in contravention of the UN resolutions. North Korea, however, insists that they were testing a “super-large multiple-rocket launcher”, which would technically not be in contravention of the UN.

Europe

  • The London Transport Authority declined to extend Uber’s taxi operating license last Monday (Nov 25) because of persistent safety problems. This comes amid Uber’s struggles with not just British, but also other European governmental regulations that Uber has failed to enforce. London is Uber’s most lucrative market, and its license was terminated last week. 
  • Last Monday (Nov 25), the Russian President Vladimir Putin last Monday accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and its projects of delving into Russian territory and militarizing space. He also added that Russia is ‘seriously concerned’ with NATO plans approaching Russian borders. 
  • The World Anti-Doping Agency has recommended last Monday (Nov 25) a four-year ban on Russian athletes and teams, following its investigators finding that a number of positive drug tests were deleted from a database it extracted from Moscow in January. Russia’s Olympic Committee has responded by saying it will do “everything in its power” to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
  • UK police shot and killed a man wearing a fake bomb on London Bridge last Friday (Nov 29) after two people were fatally stabbed in what the police called a terrorist incident. This incident occurred just two weeks before a general election and three days before a NATO summit meeting amongst world leaders.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson has threatened to review publicly-owned broadcaster Channel 4’s license last Friday (Nov 29). This comes after both Johnson and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage refused to turn up to a special televised election debate, and Channel 4 replaced them with two melting ice sculptures, representing the “emergency on planet earth”.

Middle East

  • United States troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria. This came nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi announced last Friday (Nov 29) that he would be resigning, the latest casualty of political unrest in the country. This came after citizens attacked the Iranian Consulate last Wednesday (Nov 27), and a government crackdown on the attack the following day (Nov 28). According to the UN High Commission for Human Rights, at least 354 have been killed and more than 8000 have been wounded.
  • Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, announced last Tuesday (Nov 26) that he is withdrawing his candidacy for the premiership. Hariri has expressed that he hopes his departure would prompt parliamentary groups to quickly find a replacement.
  • Israel’s ambassador to Myanmar, Ronen Gilor, expressed public support for the Burmese heads of the state in a trial held against the country in the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands for the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority.
  • Israeli aircraft attacked several sites linked to the military wing of Hamas and Islamic Jihad last Wednesday (Nov 27), causing concern over the temporary ceasefires in the region.
  • Last Thursday (Nov 28), Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki accused Qatar of using Sudan to destabilise his country. In a 10-point scheme of subversion released by Eritrea, it accused Qatar of employing, including supporting religious extremism, to publicise human rights violations, and “sow the seeds of ethnic cleavage and hatred among the Eritrean people”.

Africa

  • Last Tuesday (Nov 26), the South African Human Rights Commission has denied claims that it charged Rugby athlete Eben Etzebeth in the Equality Court to appease the Langebaan community. Mr Etzebeth is accused of using a racial slur in August. He has allegedly addressed a group of men as ‘Hottentots’, a derogatory term for people of mixed race. South Africa has faced issues with racism before, having been under apartheid governance until 1995.
  • Public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and ex-public protector chief operating officer Basani Baloyi faced off in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria over Baloyi’s dismissal. Mkhwebane dismissed Baloyi last month for lacking the required skills and conduct. Baloyi has since denounced the move, claiming that her dismissal was intended for Mkhwebane’s personal gain. She is asking the court to rule her dismissal unconstitutional, on the grounds that it did not follow proper procedure.
  • Namibian President Hage Geingob has been re-elected for a second term, though his popularity has dipped significantly since his first election. He has promised tangible improvements to their lives, and is a member of the Swapo party, which has ruled Namibia since its independence from South Africa. He ran against fellow party member Panduleni Itula, who stood as an independent, and the official opposition candidate McHenry Venaani of the Popular Democratic Movement.
  • Hilal Elver, United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, warned last Thursday (Nov 28) that Zimbabwe was facing “man-made” starvation. The country suffered from an El Nino drought during the growing season. Coupled with economic crises and corruption, it has resulted in basic staple foodstuff becoming rare.
  • Angry residents of Beni burned down the town hall and stormed the UN peacekeeping mission last Monday (Nov 25). This came after rebels killed eight citizens and kidnapped nine more. Protesters suggest that the mission should leave if they are not protecting the population.
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The IAS Gazette is a news site run by undergraduates from the Singapore Institute of Management’s International Affairs Society (IAS). Founded in 2018, it traces its roots to The Capital, a now defunct bimonthly magazine previously under the IAS.

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